You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

French Open 2016: Serena Williams nears 22nd title after bad weather, upsets weaken draw

SB Nation logoSB Nation 03-06-2016 James Brady
© Provided by Vox Media, Inc.

When the 2016 French Open draw was originally announced, many pointed to a difficult road through the tournament for top seed Serena Williams. Going for her 22nd Grand Slam title, which would tie Steffi Graf for the all-time record, Williams is also going for her third title at Roland Garros in four years and her fourth overall.

She came up short on title No. 22 earlier this year at the Australian Open when she fell to Angelique Kerber in the finals. Kerber was among the players drawn into Williams' top half of the draw for the French Open, with a potential meeting in the semifinals. Shortly after the draw, many projected Williams would wind up facing fifth seed Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals.

Add to that a potential fourth-round match against Ana Ivanovic and, of course, top players Agnieszka Radwanska and Garbine Muguruza in the other half of the draw, and Williams was looking at a very tough road to the finals.

But after the actual draw took place, things sort of fell in Williams' favor.

Ivanovic, the toughest early potential challenge for Williams, wound up losing before the Round of 16, where they would have met. Ivanovic has her lone career win over Williams in the Round of 16 at the 2014 Australian Open.

But Ivanovic fell to Elina Svitolina, the No. 18 seed, who went into her match against Williams without having ever beaten her in professional play. Williams beat her, 6-1, 6-1, to make it into the quarterfinals.

Rather than facing Azarenka in the quarterfinals or even No. 12 Carla Suarez Navarro, Williams was faced with unseeded Yulia Putintseva. That match ended up giving her more trouble than expected when Putintseva took the first set, but Williams ultimately won as expected.

The semifinals could have featured her going up against players like Kerber, No. 8 Timea Bacsinszky or even her sister, the ninth-seeded Venus Williams. Instead she is set to face Kiki Bertens, another unseeded opponent who herself beat Bacsinszky in straight sets in the quarterfinals.

And taking a look at the other half of the draw, provided Williams gets past Bertens there were several players who could have given her trouble but were eliminated earlier in the tournament. Radwanska, the second seed this year, fell to unseeded Tsvetana Pironkova in the Round of 16. Simona Halep, the No. 6 seed who has been playing exceptionally well, wound up falling to No. 21 Samantha Stosur in the fourth round.

It's worth noting that both Radwanska and Halep lost matches that were rather controversial. After rain completely eliminated play on Monday, tournament organizers chose to play just over two hours of matches on Tuesday, passing the threshold to have to refund ticket purchases for the day. Those two hours of matches included very wet courts for Radwanska and Halep, who both complained that organizers didn't care about the players and suggested that playing in that weather was inexcusable.

Whatever the case, things are certainly moving in Williams' favor. If she gets through Bertens, she's looking at a final matchup against either Muguruza or Stosur, depending on the result of the other semifinal.

And what should we expect out of her match with Bertens, on top of that? They have only played once, at the U.S. Open in 2015, where Williams won in straight sets. It's worth noting, though, that Bertens did push Williams to a first-set tiebreak. Williams is no stranger to struggling early before dominating later, and she showcased it in that meeting.

But while Williams has had an "easy" time at it through the draw thus far, Bertens has been playing excellent tennis. She played well against Kerber before the latter retired due to injury. In the third round, she went up against Daria Kasatkina, the No. 29 seed, and she beat her in three sets, winning a third-set tiebreak. From there, she scored the big straight-set upset over No. 15 Madison Keys, and handled Bacsinszky in the quarterfinals.

It's not going to be a "gimmie" match by any standard, and Williams should expect either Muguruza or Stosur at their bests to try and keep her from her 22nd title if she does make it to the finals. But it's certainly interesting to see the way the draw -- and the weather -- has shaped up to seemingly pave a way to victory for Williams.

More From SB Nation

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon